CriticaLink | Lacan: The Mirror Stage | Terms


The French word captation (and its rare English cognate) has a Latin root meaning "capture" or "seizure"; French law uses the term to describe situations in which a person takes control of another person through manipulation. In Lacan's use, the term describes the way particular images, as well as elements of external reality, can "catch hold" of the psyche and become important formative agents for the subject. We approach this meaning when we speak of something "capturing" our attention or "captivating" us.

Insofar as the "I" of consciousness comes into being through captation--through an encounter with something external to it (an image emanating from "outside' the subject, even if it is the reflected image of the subject's own body)--we cannot view the "I" of Descartes's "I think, therefore I am" (the Cogito) as in inborn, self-contained unit. At the end of the essay on the mirror stage, Lacan suggests that captation is also a function in the formation of psychosis.